Transcript: Thanks Allan. This is David Brower and our special guest today is Joshua Shea, who wrote the book The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About: How I Let My Pornography Addiction Hurt People and Destroy Relationships. Joshua, pleasure to have you on the podcast, man. How’s the world of Maine today?
Joshua Shea: The world of Maine is cold and icy. I can’t think of a better thing than springtime around the corner.
David Brower: There you go. There you go. Well the title of your book is so spot-on. The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About. We talked a little bit before we started recording about we have these conversations in our church. We have these conversations in our men’s Bible study. We have these conversations amongst friends sometimes. They kind of, sort of, a little bit, admit there’s an issue, which really means, “Oh my God. We got to figure out a way to help you handle this.” Right?
Joshua Shea: Yeah. Absolutely. We, at least in the United States, have a really poor track record of getting ahead of our cultural scourges. Pornography addiction, if you look at the statistics, and how it’s grown over the last 10, 15 years and projecting out where it will go, it’s some scary stuff. I just saw a statistic recently that said that just over 30% of men between the ages of 18 and 30 believe they may have a pornography addiction.
David Brower: Oh my gosh.
Joshua Shea: Think about that. That’s one in three men between 18 and 30 may be addicted to this stuff. We know this right now, much like you can go back and watch Dragnet on Nic at Night from the 1960s, and they’re talking about what a problem heroin is there. Or you can go back and listen to rappers in the 1980s and early ’90s talking about abusing Vicodin. You can’t say the opioid crisis snuck up on us. It didn’t.
David Brower: No. That’s right.
Joshua Shea: We were really late to reacting. Much like it’s not six months ago sexual harassment just started in the workplace. It’s not like 10 years ago bullying just started in schools. We have a horrible track record of being a reactive society and not a proactive society. That’s why I wrote The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About, to put my story out there and let people know a lot of people have this story and we have to start addressing it.
David Brower: Good for you. I think the thing that I like about what you just said is oftentimes we look at statistics or we hear the 18-second sound-bite and we go, “Oh, not me. Oh, not my family. Oh, not my friends. Oh, not my whatever,” but until you really get exposed to a true, actual story that you can sink your teeth into does that really kind of help make a home run that you go, “Oh my God. Really?”
Joshua Shea: Yeah, well I had a close friend, who I remember a couple years back found out he had cancer. Thankfully he’s okay now-
David Brower: Good.
Joshua Shea: … but he said to me, he said, “You know you never think of this. You never worry about it. You just know that it happens to other people but it’s never going to happen to you.” I bet you anything that my parents, my close friends, other family members, when they found out, when I got in trouble with the law, when they found out about my porn addiction, I bet suddenly they had to completely reevaluate, “Oh my goodness. This does happen to real people I know.” I was even somebody who said, “Oh my Lord. This happens to people and this happened to me.” It’s scary, but if we don’t start talking about it, I can only wonder where things are going to head.
David Brower: Absolutely, and the internet obviously makes it exponential. I mean it’s just-
Joshua Shea: Oh right. Well you know I’m turning 42 years old here next week and I think that I’m in the very last of the last generation who got hooked on magazines and VHS videotapes.
David Brower: Yeah. There you go. I had Sears catalogs and the 1953 Playboy.
Joshua Shea: Yeah. But now you can get any level of any genre of anything you want with the click of a button.
David Brower: Yup. Absolutely. I was thinking the other day when I saw this Victoria’s Secret’s commercial. I’m going, “Man, when I was a kid that was pornography.” I mean that was get my butt whipped and go back in the closet. You know?
Joshua Shea: Yeah.
David Brower: Now they show all this stuff on TV. It just boggles my mind.
Joshua Shea: You know our minds have not evolved and our physical DNA and makeup has not evolved in 50 years to any measurable level, yet the amount that we allow this stuff into society and into our homes and tolerate it, it’s just exponential. We can’t keep up physiologically.
David Brower: Yup. Absolutely right. Now you’re a freelance writer. You’re a former magazine publisher, city councilor. You were like the by all appearances that people would see you walking up and down the street, “Man, now there’s a guy that’s got it together.” Right?
Joshua Shea: Oh yeah. Everybody knew who I was and everybody thought that I was on top of the world. They cared what I had to say. It was a very carefully crafted façade that I put on for everybody.
David Brower: How did you break that façade? What was the epiphany or the-
Joshua Shea: Well ultimately I couldn’t keep it up anymore because too many pieces of my life were imploding. Along with a pornography addiction I’ve had since I was a teenager, I also have been an alcoholic. There are some mental health issues with me as well. I was diagnosed bipolar in my 20s. What was happening to me in 2013 was that my magazine had been around for quite a while so it was no longer the new hip thing. The revenue started to fall. There started to be some problems internally. I made the very horrible decision to pull myself off of my psych meds with the idea that if I could tap into my manic side, I’d have enough energy and I’d have enough drive to turn things around. Unfortunately, what happened was that the alcohol use and the porn use spiked-
David Brower: Wow.
Joshua Shea: … because I needed to cope with my issues. I needed to somehow deal with the anxiety and stress that was going on. This lead to isolation from my wife and my kids. I stopped taking care of myself physically, mentally. It was one of these perfect storms type situations. I entered into a very critical phase of pornography addiction where I made the leap from just passively watching videos online to actually beginning to interact with women in chat rooms. One woman that I interacted with ended up being a teenage girl. About five months after that happened, the Maine State Police showed up at my door with a search warrant for my computers and 22 months later I started a six-month jail sentence. That was in 2016 but I tell you-
David Brower: Wow.
Joshua Shea: … I am the luckiest guy in the world that they showed up at my door because I only give even odds that I’d even be here alive to talk to you if they hadn’t.
David Brower: Right.
Joshua Shea: I needed a massive intervention on so many levels and my friends and family taking me aside wasn’t going to do anything. I needed something like that. In the 22 months between my arrest and my sentencing, I went to two inpatient rehabs. One for 10 weeks for alcohol in California. One for 7 weeks for sex and porn addiction in Texas. You know, hundreds of hours, if not thousands of one-on-one therapy and group therapy, 12-step groups, and just in reading a hell of a lot about it. Just trying to learn as much as I could and develop tools that I could move forward in my life and not have to rely on alcohol or pornography as tools to get through life anymore. I’m very proud to say I’m going to be approaching four years here in a couple months.
David Brower: Wow. High-fives all around the room, man. Congratulations.
Joshua Shea: Thank you.
David Brower: I mean it feels like everybody talks about, “Well, you got to hit bottom. Well I hit bottom and-
Joshua Shea: Yeah. You know what? I don’t think I … I think hitting bottom is death. I don’t think anybody has to hit rock bottom. I guess I could have got worse. I can always throw more gas on the fire. What I’m trying to do with this book and in talking to people on a show like yours, is to let them know that however bad it is now, it can stop. It can turn around today. It doesn’t have to get worse. I look at it the same way I look at recovery. People say life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Recovery is all journey because at the end of it you breathe your last breath, but up until then it’s all about recovery.
David Brower: Yeah. Absolutely right. I mean once addicted, always addicted. Right? You’re always working towards maintaining.
Joshua Shea: Absolutely. Absolutely. I have a much easier time handling any cravings or handling any triggers today than I did three years ago and I assume three years from now it’ll be a little bit easier. But addiction changes your brain chemistry and that’s why it’s a disease. It actually is a physical disease. I’m always going to have to cope with it. I have a naturally addictive personality anyway so I have to make sure that I don’t now get addicted to food, or gambling, or video games, or whatever else it is, because I can look through my life and see other addictions along the way. My work was a huge addiction. There were times other you know … I collected baseball cards when I was a teenager. I had over 200,000. I needed to have the most because that’s just who I am, and it became an obsession and an addiction. I moved on from it but I moved on to other things. That’s really what I have to watch out for, is not just falling off the pornography or the alcohol bandwagon, but not jumping and becoming cross-addicted to something else.
David Brower: That’s part one of my interview with Joshua Shea.
Allan Blackwell: Your 20-minute podcast with David Brower has been brought to you by Audible. You can listen to any of David’s podcasts anywhere podcasts can be found, including iHeartRadio, the Spotify mobile app, and at davidbrowervo.com/yourtwentyminutepodcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.